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Millennials Fuel Renewed Interest In Vinyl Records

Pundits have long predicted the death of vinyl, as music fans turned to digital music. But an unexpected audience has come to its rescue — fans who like the idea of owning physical copies of their music.

Quinn Bishop from Cactus Music looks through the store’s collection of vinyl records – a format that’s enjoying a resurgence.
Quinn Bishop from Cactus Music looks through the store’s collection of vinyl records – a format that’s enjoying a resurgence.

Record Store Day is an annual April event at independent music stores. But a second, slightly smaller version of the event happened on Black Friday. Over the weekend at Cactus Music here in Houston, there were live in-store music performances and lots of special limited releases — many by major artists.

You’ll find Quinn Bishop behind the counter at Cactus.

“Record Store Day, and the limited edition releases that come with it, has been kind of a game changer for us. And you build upon that with the Shop Small Saturday that comes directly after that. It really calls to people to spend locally, and that really helps us as well,” he said.

Many artists release limited edition vinyl for Record Store Day — special ten-inch records or picture discs, often with out-of-print or unreleased material.

“You’re always gonna see a piece from Bob Dylan, from the Beatles, from the Rolling Stones,” he said. “You’re seeing some of the more curated smaller labels that specialize in dead art, so to speak. You know, records that never even made it to the CD format.”

That’s because many early CDs were only greatest hit collections or major releases. Sales of vinyl shrunk as CDs came along and then mp3 downloads. But Bishop says vinyl is making a resurgence.

“And where vinyl was 15 percent of our business almost ten years ago, it’s now over, it’s almost 55 percent of our business now,” Bishop said. 

It’s not a case of nostalgia or fascination with a retro technology.

“You have these millennials. Well, their parents did not own records –their parents owned CDs or cassettes. So for them, they see vinyl and turntable culture as something that’s their own. I mean, they’ve claimed it as defining their generation,” he said. 

Bishop sees a growing number of music fans with what he calls a “bookshelf mentality.”

“They plow through everything out there that’s of interest to them,” he said. “And they kind of distill it into the things that, the music that defines them, and they buy that on LP and that’s what’s on the shelf. It doesn’t mean that they have every recorded work by somebody that they casually put on their phone. But they buy those albums.”

And Bishop doesn’t expect to see the CD dying off anytime soon. He says despite the convenience of having music on your phone, downloaded music just doesn’t sound as good, and music fans are finding that listening to a CD in your car sounds better than streaming music.

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